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St. James Parish, first Catholic parish established in Brooklyn, celebrating 200th anniversary

Massive milestone for 200th anniversary of St. James Parish
Massive milestone for 200th anniversary of St. James Parish 02:18

NEW YORK -  A massive milestone is set to take place in our city's history, the first Catholic parish established in Brooklyn is celebrating its 200th anniversary this Sunday. 

The stained glass in the stately St. James Cathedral on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn glows as preparations are underway for Sunday's celebration. This parish was the first to be built on all of Long Island.

Before the parish in the Village of Brooklyn, congregants had to make a treacherous journey across the East River into Manhattan to attend mass.

"These people took their faith so seriously that they would get on the ferry and go all the way to Manhattan to go to mass, and they were very faithful. And then one day they finally got together and petitioned the Bishop, could we please have our own church?" says Father Bryan Patterson, Pastor at St. James Parish.

Sunday's special mass is meant to mark the bi-centennial of the creation of that first cathedral. Cardinal Timothy Dolan will be the main celebrant, along with Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre and Bishop Robert Brennan of Brooklyn.

"There's that constant ebb and flow of people, but what's constant for us is that faith that unites us, the faith in God," Brennan told CBS2's Hannah Kliger.

The original cathedral, the cornerstone of which was blessed in 1822, was later replaced by a Neo-Georgian building in 1903, which still proudly stands on Jay Street today.

"World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the [Vietnam] War, the Civil Rights movements, and this church has been here through all of that as a testament to something deeper," Patterson said.

The parish was distinguished by a visit from the Pope in 1979.

"Saint John Paul II, who I had the privilege of celebrating mass with in the Vatican a number of times, was an extraordinary person," says Patterson. "And the fact that he stopped here to recognize St. James as the mother church I think is a big deal."

Then, in 1982, the pope officially designated the cathedral as a basilica, which means it has special privileges and a direct relationship with the Vatican.

After centuries of worship and history, faith leaders say it's important to remember where we are today. 

"Diocese of Brooklyn, we celebrate mass in 33 different languages every Sunday. We have people from all over the world who pass through Brooklyn and Queens," said Bishop Brennan.

"Maybe there will be another 200 years, and maybe this church as it is now will still be standing here as a testament to faith in God and the faith that we have in each other," added Patterson.

The mass will be held on Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. 

Have a story idea or tip in Brooklyn? Email Hannah by CLICKING HERE.

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